Friday, March 3, 2017

Colour Scheme by Ngaio Marsh: A Review by Warren Bull

Colour Scheme by Ngaio Marsh: A Review by Warren Bull

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Colour Scheme was published in 1943 and it is set against the background of New Zealand at war. It begins with members of the Claire family who run a spa, which makes use of the natural hot springs in the area. The family members work very hard but not very well at their enterprise. Colonel Edward Claire and his wife Barbara are the proprietors. They are nice, if somewhat vague. people. Early in their residence in the area Barbara nursed Rua Te Kahu, a chief of the Te Rurawas Maori, back to health after a serious illness. They have been trusted and esteemed by their Maori neighbors ever since. Simon is the couple’s son who has been known to spout off a socialist brand of political talk. Barbara, their daughter lacks sophistication. She is rather shy and, when trying to fit in with people her age, she becomes a bit too loud.  Dr. James Ackrington is Barbara’s uncle. He is a permanent resident, curmudgeon and critic of all he surveys.

Maurice Questing is not part of the family, but he resides at the Spa. He has a real talent for angering the doctor. The other Claires are intimidated by him. Huia is a Maori maid likely to burst into tears or otherwise demonstrate her emotions. Robert Smith is a roustabout who does as little as possible with the exception of complaining.

Into this group come Geoffrey Gaunt, actor and celebrity, with his secretary, Dikon Bell and his servant, Alfred Colley. The mix of personalities is a clever and interesting part of the novel. Having been in New Zealand, I could easily envision the setting, which is well described. I am not certain how her portrayal of Maoris would be seen by today’s New Zealanders, but for the time it was written in it is respectful.

Marsh did not get into the major mystery for most of the book, which, as a reader, I was perfectly content with because of the quality of her writing. She kept me interested and entertained by the activity of the characters. Her knowledge of theater and theater people is evident.  I enjoyed reading this shortly after visiting her home in Christchurch, New Zealand. I recommend it highly. I also give my very highest recommendation to visiting New Zealand. 


Gloria Alden said...

This sounds like another excellent book I'd like to read. I wonder if the libraries still have books this old. If not, maybe I can find it online.

Susan Oleksiw said...

I read this years ago, and enjoyed it very much. She loved the theater, and I enjoy seeing how she integrates that into various mysteries.

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

I like learning about a new place from a favorite author, and then re-reading after I've visited the place. I may never get to New Zealand, but I enjoy it through books.

Grace Topping said...

I read this book recently and enjoyed it very much. Thanks for promoting works that continue to entertain.

KM Rockwood said...

I think we miss something with the current insistence on starting all crime novels "in media res." It certainly often works well, but some works really do demand that a backdrop be created prior to the crime.

Glad to hear about a book by an old favorite. I don't think I've ever read that one.